May 6, 2022 | LIFE | By Carlee Castillo | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian

Lazily treading the concrete, the sun was warm, and the trees were fragrant. The pastel houses of the Old North End created a perfect palette for one of the first real days of spring. Bees buzzed inside tulips, ladybugs crawled between sidewalk cracks, and children raced tricycles on the asphalt. Small happiness surrounded me before being plunged back into business.

In an institution and system that prioritizes productivity, it is difficult to find moments of respite. Students’ hobbies are often overshadowed by homework. Relaxation is overtaken by extracurriculars. Fun is neglected, and the Block Plan, especially, can deteriorate the mental health of students.

The initial quarantine imposed by COVID-19 encouraged many people to pick up new hobbies intended for enjoyment rather than efficiency. We were forced to find happiness in mundanity. How can we reclaim the small joys we once discovered?

During the start of the pandemic, I found comfort in baking. Previously, I had no time to attempt cooking or baking. However, quarantine provided me with hours to lose while reading recipe books and analyzing YouTube tutorials. Cherry turnovers were my specialty, and I relished the process of making them for my family. Soon, I shifted to birthday cakes. Even though I only ever mastered box mix and mediocre decorative techniques, I found happiness in every tablespoon of sugar and lick of frosting. Unfortunately, now living only with access to a typical mucky communal kitchen and limited time, I no longer have time to find joy in baking.

Alex Stambuk ’24, explains that he found happiness in the outdoors during quarantine. Whether it was bike riding or “riding [his] ripstik,” Stambuk found joy in spending time in nature that would otherwise be filled with schoolwork or club activities.

However, since coming back to school, his free time has diminished significantly. Although he still enjoys the occasional bike ride, those peaceful summer nights he once spent on suburban roads seem unattainable considering his workload. “Being with my besties and family is what relaxes me and makes me happy now,” he said.

Similarly, Alexis Kaer ’24 picked up crochet during quarantine. Practicing stitches and working on projects settled her mind during chaotic and confusing times. However, after attending CC in-person, her yarn usually sits idle on the closet floor due to her busy schedule.

“Now I find moments of happiness by spending time both alone and with the people I love,” Kaer said. “And by finding time to do things for myself even if I’m really busy or overwhelmed, which is typical on the Block Plan.”

Although students lack the expanse of time required to undergo hobbies, they can find joy in small, busy moments. Happiness is a bag of skittles to share at the library. It’s calling your parents on the way to class. It’s spotting spring’s first sprouting flowers outside your window as you take an exam. Even if we can’t return to the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, the sounds of a hot summer night, or the sense of accomplishment after completing a crochet cardigan, small joys are always around, just waiting to be discovered.

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